Kanban Methodology: The Japanese Method To Streamline Your Business

The market is currently working at such a fast pace that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. This situation has led companies of all sizes to make hasty decisions and readjust production plans on the fly. Many times these tasks are extremely complex, especially if you lack a good management system. Fortunately, there are methodologies that help us effectively manage any business with just a few simple steps.

This is the concept from which the Kanban values ​​are based, a methodology for streamlining processes that allow for a better organization. The fundamentals of the Kanban methodology originated from the needs of a company, to organize its production process and identify the deficiencies in it. Therefore, it is especially recommended for those who need to know their workflow, prioritize tasks, and have greater flexibility in their work in progress.

If the goal is to achieve greater organization, reduce bureaucracy, make decision-making more flexible, and provide a maximum power of knowledge to team members, it is time to know why to use Kanban.

Kanban: What is it? and What is it for?

The term Kanban is related to the concept of agile methodologies, whose main objective is to efficiently manage the process that allows completing the tasks within a business.

Kanban: What is it? and What is it for?
What is Kanban?

Kanban is a Japanese word made up of two kanjis; kan which means “visual” and ban which means “card”. Therefore, the term refers to “visual cards”; what for us comes to be advertisements or signs.

Its operation is mainly based on the use of cards (generally post-its) to visually manage the performance of various tasks and processes within a business plan.

It has its origin in the late 40s when the Toyota automotive company implemented a production system called just-in-time (just in time); which had the objective of producing according to customer demand and identifying possible material shortages within the production line. But it is not until Microsoft engineer David J. Anderson; note how this method devised by Toyota can become a process applicable to any type of company that needs organization.

How does the Kanban methodology work?
How Kanban methodology work?

How does the Kanban methodology work?

The method used by Kanban is based on a drag system, where a task is divided into multiple processes, each one is identified with its own card that indicates the status it is in, within the board that makes up the total journey of homework.

Toyota moved away from the pull production method, which consists of manufacturing products, to later try to sell them to consumers. Determined to innovate, they laid the foundations of what we now know as lean manufacturing; that is, base its production around the demands of customers, thus reducing losses without affecting production. For this reason, they generated greater value for consumers without generating more expenses for the company.

Applying this methodology is very simple and can be updated as many times as desired until it is able to adapt to the needs of each company. For work teams, it is extremely easy to adapt to its operation, and they are constantly informed of what is happening throughout the process, just by looking at the work board.

Kanban board examples

Here are some common Kanban board examples, ranging from simple use cases to more complex applications:

Basic Kanban Board

The most fundamental version to get you started:

  • To Do: Holds your backlog of planned tasks.
  • In Progress: Tasks currently being actively worked on.
  • Done: Completed tasks.

Software Development Kanban Board

A more refined example tailored for software development teams:

  • Backlog: Initial list of features or bugs.
  • Ready for Dev: Tasks prioritized and prepared for developers.
  • Development: Tasks in active development.
  • Testing/QA: Tasks undergoing testing or quality assurance.
  • Done: Tasks that have passed testing and are ready for deployment.

Kanban Board with Swimlanes

Swimlanes add another dimension, often used to separate different work streams or teams:

  • Swimlane 1: Feature development (with the standard Backlog, In Progress, Done flow)
  • Swimlane 2: Bug fixes (with a similar setup)
  • Swimlane 3: Urgent issues (for high-priority tasks needing to be fast-tracked)

Sales Pipeline Kanban Board

Kanban works well to visualize sales processes:

  • Leads: Potential customers.
  • Contacted: Initial contact has been established.
  • Proposal Sent: A proposal has been delivered.
  • Negotiation: Actively negotiating terms with the lead.
  • Closed Won: Deals that have been finalized
  • Closed Lost: Deals that were not successful.

Complex IT Operations Kanban Board

For IT teams managing diverse requests and incidents:

  • New Requests: Incoming requests for IT support.
  • Triage: Assessing and prioritizing requests.
  • In Progress: Actively worked on tasks.
  • Waiting: Tasks dependent on external factors.
  • Resolved: Tasks completed but awaiting final user confirmation.
  • Closed: Tasks fully completed.

Important Notes

  • Customization: These are just examples – the beauty of Kanban is its flexibility. Customize your board’s columns to match your specific workflow.
  • WIP Limits: Don’t forget to set WIP (Work-in-Progress) limits for each column to optimize flow and focus.

Kanban: Features

Kanban is an agile methodology, which differs from its peers by presenting its own unique characteristics. Some of these are:

  1. Reduction of waste: thanks to the YAGNI principle, any secondary or superficial activity that presents a waste of time and capital has been reduced. For this reason, in the Kanban method, what is fair and necessary is entirely done, as a way of providing a maximum level of quality.
  2. Guaranteed quality: the Kanban method does not invite speed, but rather to carry out the processes correctly. It states that correcting a mistake will always be more expensive than getting the job done right the first time.
  3. Flexibility: use the backlog to decide the next tasks to perform. Even when older tasks are pending, they are carried out in order of priorities according to current needs.
  4. Continuous improvement: not only based on project management but also provides improvements in the development of projects, through the achievement of objectives and goals.

Kanban Methodology: Advantages and Disadvantages

Before implementing a new methodological model in our projects, we must be aware of the benefits that it could bring us, as well as the potential damages that it could generate. Let us know next, the advantages and disadvantages of the Kanban methodology:


Currently, we can say that we have not found any disadvantage or potential problem that involves the implementation of the Kanban methodology in a business.


Kanban has been around for decades, thanks to the multiple benefits that it can bring to those who implement it. Among the most prominent, we have the ease with which it turns out to be used, as well as its update or customization for each person, project, or company.

  1. Visuality: the management process through cards is highly visual and easy to understand for anyone. This particularity facilitates knowing the magnitude of the status of pending tasks, as well as the effective planning of management strategies.
  2. Ease of implementation: its implementation to the processing system of a company can be quick and easy, due to the simplicity of its system and that it does not require major changes.
  3. Transparency: thanks to the suppression of secondary tasks, the focus on the main ones is considerably increased, which brings better results in a shorter period of time.
  4. Avoid inefficient production: Because what is just and necessary is produced, overproduction or resource limitation is avoided. This is directly reflected in the greater availability of resources, time, and materials.
  5. Task control: The shortening of production lapses, allows us to have better general planning and reduce effort control. For this reason, it affects the area of ​​control, supply, and purchases of the company. This increases inventory turnover and reduces storage capacity.
  6. Flexibility: allows each member of the team to know exactly what their task is, increasing efficiency, in addition, in the face of a possible inconvenience, there is an immediate response capacity to solve it.
  7. Avoid procrastination: it is one of the biggest problems of startups, because they usually start multiple projects at the same time, without first finishing the previous one. The Kanban methodology attacks the root cause of the problem since it establishes a reasonable period of time in which each task must be completed, eliminating dispersion.
Steps to configure your Kanban strategy
Configure your Kanban strategy

Steps to configure your Kanban strategy

To do this, we will only have to create a task board, in which we can add multiple cards that allow us to efficiently manage the pending tasks. In this way, we will obtain a considerable improvement in the workflow and we will reach a sustainable pace. Now, to configure the Kanban strategy we must:

1. Define the project workflow

To get started, you have to create a job board. This must be visible and accessible to all team members, it must have several columns, each one representing the different states through which a task passes before being completed, in this way you will have full knowledge of the state in which it is.

The Kanban life cycle model defines that the most basic board used is made up of 3 columns: to be done, in-process and finished. At the same time, it can be customized to your likings, such as diagnosis, definition, classification, development, and testing.

2. Visualize the phases of the production cycle

Although the SCRUM and Kanban methods have many differences, mostly in the management of the workflow definition; They share a basis in the principle of development increases. This means that they both divide the work into different sections for better execution, so within the Kanban methodology, we do not speak of a task as such, but of many parts that make it up and in this way, the process is streamlined of production.

Generally, each of the parties receives a post-it that is pasted on the board according to its corresponding phase, where the basic information, a short description, or the estimated time period for its completion are written, in this way the team will have full knowledge of the total workload. The board can be personalized, adding photos of those responsible for each task, as well as different elements that complement the tasks (for example, a ribbon that one to two post-its as a bridge, as an indication that a task depends on another to be finalized).

The ultimate goal of visualization is to have a clear and precise overview of the work to be done. Be the tasks that are pending assigned to the team members, the priorities or the objectives to be achieved.

3. Stop starting, start finishing

This is the motto of the Kanban methodology and it means that the work that is in progress must be prioritized, before starting new tasks. The system indicates that the work in progress should be limited, to avoid wasting time unnecessarily doing many tasks at the same time and making it more difficult to execute them correctly.

On the other hand, each team member must have a maximum number of activities assigned per phase, as a way to avoid saturation of the process. To do this, you must define what will be the maximum number of tasks in each of the phases, in addition, it must be remembered that no new task should be started without first having finished the previous one.

4. Flow control

We can mix tasks and projects, so team members will have a constant flow of work. This allows passive monitoring of the most important tasks that are under development, in turn, there is the possibility of emptying updated information taken from the monitoring of the work carried out.

Becoming a method that originated in the 40s, the validity of the Kanban life cycle model continues to be an advantageous measure for individuals, businesses, or companies; Because the ability to flexibly change priorities at any point in the process provides new ways to achieve established objectives.

These particularities added to the ease of its implementation and the fundamentals of the Kanban methodology of leaving nothing by halves; it is the ideal way to agilely organize internal processes.

In this sense, it is recommended to apply Kanban values especially in companies that deserve a restructuring based on the prioritization of task deliveries or on supervising the work of team members. Measures that will help them eliminate distractions, finish processes quickly and correctly, as well as reduce overproductions that generate waste of time and capital.

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